Stirling County and Fosroc Scottish Rugby Academy centre Grant Hughes is set to make his Scotland U20 debut as Head Coach Carl Hogg names a reshuffled backline to face France U20 at Stade du Hameau, Pau in the U20 Six Nations this Friday night (22 February, kick-off 8pm GMT/ 9pm local time).
The inclusion of Hughes – who has previously represented Scotland at under-18 level – is one of three changes to the age-grade side’s back division as the debutant replaces the injured Cameron Anderson (Wasps) in midfield.
Hughes is partnered in the centre by the returning Ollie Smith (Ayr), while Matt Davidson (London Scottish) is named at fullback after impressing from the bench against Ireland two weeks ago.
The only alteration to the forward pack sees Ross Bundy (Stirling County) make his first start for Scotland U20 after being selected at No. 8 in the place of Kwagga van Niekirk.
Ahead of the fixture, Hogg, said: “Grant [Hughes] is a very good communicator at 12 and we think he’ll really help out our half-back combination in organising our backline. We’re looking forward to seeing how he gets involved with our playmaking too.
“The first two fixtures in the tournament have been disappointing. We know that we haven’t hit the heights that we can achieve as a group.
“Playing in France is always special and there should be a partisan atmosphere under the floodlights. We’ve just got to go out there and be bold in the way we play. We’ve got to be brave. We’ve got to start from the first whistle and we’ve got to have the mentality to win the game.
“We know that if we can lift the speed of the game and build the phases then we can really stress a strong French side. We’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
The inclusion of Davidson at fullback is the only alteration to an otherwise unchanged back-three as Heriot’s win pairing Rory McMichael and Jack Blain are selected on the flanks.
Debutant Hughes is partnered by Smith in midfield, with the latter returning to the starting line-up after missing the U20 Six Nations round two defeat to Ireland through injury.
An unchanged half-back partnership sees vice-captain Ross Thompson once again link-up with Currie Chieftains’ scrum-half Roan Frostwick.
Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks) continues at hooker alongside Fosroc Scottish Rugby Academy prop pairing Murphy Walker and Euan McLaren, while Racing 92’s Ewan Johnson – who returns to the country in which he plays his club rugby – is selected at lock alongside Cameron Henderson.
Captain Connor Boyle – a try-scorer in each of his two appearances for the age-grade side – continues at openside flanker, with Heriot’s Charlie Jupp and Stirling County’s Bundy completing the back-row.
Scotland U20 team to face France U20 at Stade du Hameau, Pau in the U20 Six Nations on Friday 22 February (kick-off 8pm GMT/ 9pm local)
15. Matt Davidson (London Scottish)
14. Rory McMichael (Heriot’s)*
13. Ollie Smith (Ayr)*
12. Grant Hughes (Stirling County)*
11. Jack Blain (Heriot’s)*
10. Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks)* VICE-CAPTAIN
9. Roan Frostwick (Currie Chieftains)*
1. Murphy Walker (Stirling County)*
2. Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks)
3. Euan McLaren (Ayr)*
4. Ewan Johnson (Racing 92)
5. Cameron Henderson (Stirling County)*
6. Charlie Jupp (Heriot’s)*
7. Connor Boyle (Watsonians)* CAPTAIN
8. Ross Bundy (Stirling County)
16. Angus Fraser (Glasgow Hawks)*
17. Andrew Nimmo (Glasgow Hawks)*
18. Will Hurd (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
19. Jack Mann (Edinburgh Accies)*
20. Teddy Leatherbarrow (Sale Sharks)
21. Murray Scott (Watsonians)
22. Nathan Chamberlain (Bristol Bears)
23. Robbie McCallum (Complutense Cisneros)